To balance out my previous post, here's an example of an iPhone app that's all about gestures and that does a good job: FlickTunes is one of many apps that let you control your music with gestures, which makes for a slightly safer experience while you're driving.
The app lets you swipe left/right for forward/backward, up/down for play/pause. There's a ton of other options (perhaps a few too many) for two- and three-finger gestures and for adjusting the display and gesture sensitivity. In my experience the gestures have been very reliable and responsive.
My only complaint so far is that there seems to be a bug that causes it to turn off shuffle occasionally, and apparently randomly. This happens to me in iTunes too so maybe it's an Apple bug.
I learned of FlickTunes from Suzanne Ginsburg's excellent Designing the iPhone User Experience.
With apologies to this app's developer for a harsh critique of what's obviously meant to be a throwaway novelty app, here is the simplest example I've seen of mistakes made when using gestures in an iPhone app.
RPS Gestures (iTunes link) is a "gesture-based version of the classic" Rock Paper Scissors, a.k.a. Rochambeau. This version of the game lets you play paper by swiping, rock by tapping, and scissors by pinching.
Here is the interface. Can you spot a problem?
What's novel about this app compared to the 100's of other RPS apps (yes, there are that many) is that you have to make your play using gestures -- slide for paper, tap for rock, pinch for scissors. But that's the only way to do it. If you mistakenly tap on the nice big icon for paper you don't get paper, you get rock. This reviewer sums it up eloquently:
As any good UX'er should do, I confirmed this issue with a totally (im)precise 1-minute usability study. I found that 100% of users shown this game for the first time, without having read the app store description, tapped on the icons rather than doing the gestures (sample-size = 1).
Some lessons here, about this issue and others with the app:
Okay, enough harshing on this poor app.
Via Google I also stumbled upon this fascinating site by independent game developer David Lovelace: RPS-101. It's a 101-gesture version of RPS -- "The most terrifyingly complex game ever." I look forward to the iPhone version!
The NYT has a blog post by Virginia Heffernan about adaptive keyboards and interfaces. The summary: "Having touch-screen displays that look like keys but are really responsive mini-apps introduces excitement but also unease."
The article is kind of a "what if" piece about how adaptive software, including keypads, could destabilize the experience for people. Link: The Promise and Peril of 'Smart' Keyboards.
The text-input examples given (from Apple's iOS devices and Swype) are really only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to shaking up qwerty. There's a rich history of research into text-input methods, with many more radical, and in some cases more efficient, ideas -- look at Dasher from the Cambridge University for example. For a serious book-length treatment I'd recommend Text Entry Systems by MacKenzie and Tanaka-Ishii.
Related: The BBC recently had a good write-up on the history of Qwerty: Why do we all use Qwerty keyboards?
The CRC link has the table of contents, which includes sections on vision, hearing, cognition, movement, and on involving older adults in user-centered design processes. (Not sure if touch interfaces are specifically covered.)
Synaptics (where I work) is hiring for a usability position. We make TouchPads, touchscreens and other input devices. If you're interested let me know.
Here's a link to the official job description; the requirements are somewhat flexible: http://j.mp/SynaUEJob
It's hard to keep up with all the great usability and user experience books being published these days. Here are some that I've recently picked up or am especially looking forward to:
A couple that are more directly related to touch interfaces (from the many many iPhone development books out there):
Morgan Kaufman publishes many books on UX, HCI and related computer science topics, and they too have 50% off twitter specials (@Morgan_Kaufmann).
Some interesting events coming up related to design/usability and touch interfaces:
Patrick W. Jordan: An Introduction To Usability
Decent overview of usability practice as defined from a human factors engineering perspective. It's a bit dated and way too pricey.
Dan Saffer: Designing Gestural Interfaces: Touchscreens and Interactive Devices
Very useful guidelines, history, and inspiration for anyone designing touchscreen and gestural interfaces.
Jeffrey Rubin and Dana Chisnell: Handbook of Usability Testing
Best up-to-date guidebook for usability practitioners.
Scott Berkun: Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management (Theory in Practice (O'Reilly))
Not about usability, but a good read for getting a broader view of product development.
Tom Tullis and Bill Albert: Measuring the User Experience: Collecting, Analyzing, and Presenting Usability Metrics
Excellent book on usability practice with emphasis on quantifying your results using metrics. Very useful for practitioners.
Mike Kuniavsky: Observing the User Experience: A Practitioner's Guide to User Research
Great reference on user research methods.
Harold Thimbleby: Press On: Principles of Interaction Programming
Applies computer science principles to interaction design.
John Rhodes: Selling Usability: User Experience Infiltration Tactics
Excellent collection of tips for promoting and growing usability in your company.
Bill Buxton: Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design
Written for designers but relevant for usability too. Buxton knows a lot more about design, innovation, and HCI than you or I will ever know.
I. Scott MacKenzie and Kumiko Tanaka-Ishii: Text Entry Systems: Mobility, Accessibility, Universality
Research-oriented, very useful for anyone contemplating a usability evaluation of a text-entry interface.
Donald A. Norman: The Design of Everyday Things
Classic HCI reference from a cognitive psychology perspective. You should read all of Norman's books, in my opinion.
Andrew Sears and Julie Jacko (eds): The Human-Computer Interaction Handbook, Second Edition
Massive and comprehensive research reference.
Deborah J. Mayhew: The Usability Engineering Lifecycle: A Practitioner's Handbook for User Interface Design
Useful reference for descriptions of all stages of design and usability within software development cycle.
Jakob Nielsen: Usability Engineering
Classic overview of the field and explanation of methods.
Carol Righi: User-Centered Design Stories: Real-World UCD Case Studies
Learn from other people's usability and UCD experiences. Contains lots of useful insights into how to relate to stakeholders and deal with company politics.